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Welcome New Environmental Studies and Psychology Department Professors
Josephine Masandika and Pegah Nabili
Department of Biology
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Every year, Lake Forest College welcomes new faculty members to the community, which not only expands the intellectual pool but also ensures a flow of new ideas and talents on campus. Two of the new faculty members, Dr. Brian McCammack and Dr. Daniel Curlik, have shared with us their insights and plans for their time at the college.
Dr. Brian McCammack, a native of the Midwest, is the newest faculty addition to the Environmental Studies program. Dr. McCammack will be teaching Environmental Policy and History this fall. He is looking to “expand an already robust Environmental Studies program with a focus on the environmental humanities in social sciences.” This interdisciplinary vision may be influenced by Dr. McCammack’s diverse educational background. He began his college career studying Electrical Engineering at Purdue and took a stab at English and Humanities courses in order to “break the monotony of doing problem sets.” The courses he selected turned out to interest him more than the track he was on, so he decided to pursue the humanities after finishing his undergraduate degree. Dr. McCammack went on to complete his PhD in History of American Civilization at Harvard University. He also has experience teaching history and literature courses at Harvard, as well as history courses at Tufts University. Based on his experience, Dr. McCammack has a motto that he hopes to use to help Lake Forest students choose their path: “It is never too late to change.” He believes that if you want to change into something that makes you happier, or you feel you are better at, you should do it. Even if you are already far in a major, or time seems a little short. Afterall, Dr. McCammack himself decided to change his field of study his senior year and everything worked out well for him.
When it comes to research, Dr. McCammack is most interested in the intersection between African American studies and Environmental studies. Based on this, Dr. McCammack hopes to develop a new course titled “Environmental Justice” that will cover history, environmental studies, and other social sciences. The aim of the course would be to interest students who might be passionate about environmental science, but not keen to explore the outdoors. In the spirit of keeping a lifelong Lake Forest College tradition of exposing students to field research, Dr. McCammack looks forward to building a field-based component that will develop students’ connection to Lake Forest, the Chicago community, and beyond. In class, Dr. McCammack expects participation because he wants to know the students’ perspective and wants them to be excited about the topic. For these reasons, lectures are not his choice when it comes to a delivery method; classes are expected to be discussion-based. By combining his own experience from undergraduate and graduate education Dr. McCammack hopes to arouse the same passion for Environmental Science in Lake Forest College students that he felt as an undergrad at Purdue.
Dr. Daniel Curlik is another new addition to the faculty, as an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology. He teaches Psychology Research Methods and Statistics in the fall semester and Molecular Neuroscience in the spring. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern Universitywith a general research interest in learning and memory. Prof. Curlik is currently involved in researching memory impairments related to aging, and how altering calcium channels in hippocampal neurons affects their excitability and how manipulations of the channels can help memory. Another line of research he is involved in is looking at how learning contributes to neuron survival in the flourishing subject of adult neurogenesis. Until relatively recently, it was believed the neurons in our brains were the ones we are born with, and that new ones could not be generated. However, it was found that thousands of neurons can be born daily in the hippocampus, the area of the brain related to memory, but they tend to die shortly after. However, he has shown that effortful learning can prevent cell death.
Prof. Curlik’s work with effortful learning is not limited to the laboratory- he strives to engage students in the classroom in a way that promotes effortful learning. He says in an interview, “I honestly believe effortful learning is one of the best things you can do for your brain.” In this way, his research is directly connected to what he tries to accomplish in the classroom, as he strives to get students to really care about what it is they are learning about. He hopes that students leave his class more interested in the topic than when they first began, and that they will continue to learn about the topic outside of his instruction. While teaching core course content is clearly important, Dr. Curlik says his job is more than that.“I can teach stats, I can teach molecular neuroscience, but so can Khan Academy…books can teach you that, but if you’re actually interested and I can teach something novel to you, that will go with you for the rest of your life.” With a strong desire to make course content applicable to life outside the classroom and make learning exciting, Dr. Curlik plans to bring in animal tissue to his Molecular Neuroscience course for students to experiment on, which will undoubtedly be an invigorating and new experience for many students. He also stresses the importance of helping students with problem solving and critical reasoning. Dr. Curlik also strongly focuses on working with students on their oral and written communication, since it is a crucial part of not only further educational ventures, but also any professional work.
With plans of a new course in the Environmental Studies major, and novel experiences for students interested in neuroscience, Prof. McCammack and Prof. Curlik are continuing the Lake Forest College tradition of delivering the best in terms of education, research experience and close academic relationships between professors and students. We look forward to getting to know Prof. McCammack and Curlik this semester and other semesters to come.
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